Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

REGIONAL REPORT: Plavsic Denounced as Traitor

Former Bosnian Serb president's guilty plea is unlikely to encourage her people to face up to their leaders' wartime record.
By Daniela Valenta

Biljana Plavsic's decision to admit to war crimes charges has been denounced in the Bosnian Serb entity as an act of treachery.

The former Bosnian Serb president, attending a sentencing hearing this week, agreed to change her plea two months ago. She not only admitted count three of her indictment, persecution, but acknowledged the legitimacy of the court and made an apology to all those her policies had harmed.

Although Plavsic has since said that she won't testify in any other trial, her statements have already put some of the blame for the horrors of Bosnia on the shoulders of former Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic, currently on trial for genocide.

Sadik Pazarac of the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights said Plavsic's admission of guilt is unlikely to encourage Bosnian Serbs to start dealing with the criminal past of their leaders, as they have already labelled her a traitor.

"A majority [in Republika Srpska, RS] condemned her admission of guilt," Pazarac said. "Politicians and military officers who took part in the war are afraid that she might name them or testify against them. It is not likely that anyone will [follow her example and] admit their responsibility for war crimes."

Pazarac said the mood in the Bosnian Serb entity reflects the policy of the government, which has failed to cooperate with The Hague tribunal.

The non-Serb public in Bosnia might also end up unhappy with the resolution of Plavsic case, said Jakob Finci, head of an association that coordinates efforts to establish a Bosnian Truth and Reconciliation commission.

Finci said Plavsic's change of plea might have left people in the Federation wondering if she was doing it out of a genuine feeling of remorse, or only as an attempt to reduce her sentence.

"There have been no promises from the prosecutor, or any agreement with Biljana Plavsic," said Refik Hodzic of the tribunal's outreach programme. "She knows she may still face life imprisonment.

"It is necessary for this society to start dealing with its past," he said. "The tribunal establishes concrete facts from indictments, which should help, but eventually it is up to the society, politicians and the media."

Plavsic gave an interview last week to the Belgrade political newspaper Politika in which she said she had made no deals about giving evidence to prosecutors in other trials in exchange for having most of her own charges dropped.

"I have made no deal about the length of my sentence," she said. "My only condition was not to testify at other trials. I would not have anything to say at the trial of Slobodan Milosevic."

Daniela Valenta is a Sarajevo-based journalist

As coronavirus sweeps the globe, IWPR’s network of local reporters, activists and analysts are examining the economic, social and political impact of this era-defining pandemic.


More IWPR's Global Voices

Cuba Gags Coronavirus Critics
Legislation used to intimidate those highlighting government mishandling of the emergency.
Cuba: State Measures Prompt Food Shortages
Cuba's Covid-19 Cure: Duck Heart and Liver
Fake News in Iraq
Open access social media survey reflects fear and confusion over misinformation.
Stop the Abuse
Syria: Female Prisoners Speak Out